Can You Spoil Your Baby?

HomeBlogChild Behavior ConcernsCan You Spoil Your Baby?

Contributors:  Kay Donovan, Physical Therapist; Laura Funk, Occupational Therapist; Kristi Keele, Speech Language Pathologist; and Dee Sieffert, Developmental Specialist

You are home with your newborn baby, and you are both getting used to each other. You are trying to understand their signals for basic needs; when they are hungry, wet or tired.  A baby’s cry could indicate any of these, so what do you do when they cry? Pick them up of course? Or should you let them cry?  Well-meaning family members or neighbors are full of advice regarding just that question with comments like – “You are going to spoil your baby if you pick them up all the time. You have to let them cry!!”   Or,” Pick them up they shouldn’t cry!” What is the truth?

Will picking up my baby when she is crying spoil her?

The short answer is emphatically “NO!” Contrary to the myth that picking up your baby will spoil them, doctors, child development experts and scientific researchers all agree, you cannot spoil your baby by responding when they cry by holding them. When your baby cries (totally normal, all babies cry), your instinct is to immediately pick her up and see want your baby needs! That is just what you need to do! Our Early Intervention staff of Developmental Specialists, Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapists encounter this question many times from parents of newborns. They put parents’ minds to rest and support the parent’s natural reaction to pick up their child. Here are two developmental reasons why it is important that you follow your intuition.

  • First, crying is the only way in which babies can communicate since they don’t yet have gestures or words to tell you what they need. Babies cry to communicate their needs.
  • Secondly, babies do not possess the cognitive ability at their age to manipulate a situation such that “if I cry then I will get x”. A baby is not “playing” a parent at this age! What they need is to be fed, cuddled, a diaper change or interaction — this isn’t spoiling them!

What are the benefits of answering a baby’s cry by holding them?

Holding, loving, bonding and responding to your baby is just what they need. Some of the benefits both you, and your baby can realize include:

  • Your baby learns to successfully communicate their needs and importantly, realizes that you will attend to them.
  • Your baby will feel more secure and loved through your touch.
  • Bonding between you and your baby will be strengthened as they know they can count on you.
  • You will develop a better connection with your baby through voice and touch.
  • Your baby has a greater opportunity to develop both emotionally and socially.
  • Your actions create a calming effect for both you and your baby.
  • Your interaction helps your baby to develop coping mechanism for later in life.
  • Your baby’s overall sense of security helps their brain to grow and develop.

What are additional ways to comfort a crying baby?

After checking to make sure your baby isn’t hungry, wet or ill, try these calming strategies:

  • Rocking in a rocking chair or sway while holding your baby from side to side.
  • Gently stroke her head or pat her back or chest.
  • Swaddle him in a receiving blanket.
  • Use a soft soothing voice while singing or talking to her.
  • Play soft music as your rock your child.
  • Walk him in your arms, a stroller or a carriage.
  • Take her — and yourself — for a nice, easy car ride.
  • Put him next to a rhythmic noise or vibration, like a washing machine or fan.
  • Burp her to relieve any trapped gas bubbles.

Responding to their needs helps your baby feel loved.  This first year of life is an important time for you to bond with your child, to help them feel that their world is a safe place and that you’ll be there for them.  There is no such thing as too much love!

If  you want to learn more about teli Early Intervention Services  to help your child to achieve their full potential, call teli at 412-922-8322.

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